CLEARFIELD -- Gone are the days when seventh- and eighth-graders at North Davis Junior High School searched the depths of their backpacks for homework assignments. The students are now using netbooks -- small, lightweight laptops, bought by grants and owned by the school -- in classrooms and at home to complete and turn in their assignments.
"It's much easier, and I'm not losing my papers and trying to find them in the bottom of my backpack," said seventh-grader Kale-Briel St. John.
When she has to turn an assignment in, she just "drops" it in her teacher's "drop box" on the computer. No more paper to keep track of.
Kale-Briel, who wants to work with animals when she is an adult, said her teachers have found creative ways to create lessons for the netbook, which has been assigned directly to her to use until the end of the school year.
She has used the netbook in class to take notes and download pictures from the Internet to go with the lessons.
"It makes a better picture in your mind, so you understand (the topic)," she said.
Kale-Briel is among 700 students at the school, along with 250 third- to sixth-graders at Wasatch Elementary, using netbooks.
The district piloted the netbook program at the two schools last year.
Centennial Junior High School opened in Kaysville in August, and all of its students are also using netbooks -- which cost about $325 each.
North Davis officials hope to get another grant to fund additional netbooks for ninth-graders to use next year, said Principal Ryan Hansen.
The two Clearfield schools are among the oldest schools in the district, and the student population is diverse, officials said.
District officials believed the faculty and staff at both schools were capable of using netbooks to enhance their curriculum.
"Not all of our kids have computers in their homes," said Wasatch Elementary School Principal Janet Sumner.
But all of the students have grown up with some type of technology, whether it is cell phones or hand-held devices.
And once they get old enough, most of the students will need to have some computer skills to compete in the job market.
"For our kids to be competitive for jobs and for college, they need to navigate the Internet to be successful, and they need to be fluent in digital literacy," Hansen said.
Barbara Progess, who teaches science at North Davis, has taught for the past 28 years and said she "embraced the netbooks reluctantly."
"We're on the cusp of the change (in education), and it's really hard on teachers who didn't grow up with technology," said Progess, who is also one of the school's netbook coaches.
For older teachers, adding technology to their curriculum can be frustrating because it's something they are not used to, she said.
But Progess is excited because students can now access up-to-date information about science and history. Typically, textbooks are outdated before they are in students' hands.
Hansen said one of his teachers is retiring at the end of the school year and has chosen not to use the netbooks in his classroom, but that has not deterred the majority of teachers at the school.
Teachers are not required to use the netbooks daily, but are encouraged to use them when they can.
The older teachers look to just-out-of-college teachers -- like Wyatt Kennah -- for help.
With netbooks, Kennah said, "the sky is the limit" for students.
Some students are limited by learning disabilities, economics or language, but with the technology added to the classroom, all students are on even ground, educators said.
For example, students with learning disabilities tend to have poor handwriting and write more slowly than the average student, Sumner said.
But give those students a keyboard, "and they do much better," she said.
Sumner said a student who has autism refused to do any writing assignments, but when asked to put a story into a PowerPoint presentation, "he got right to it and got it done."
Educators said the technology also benefits high-achieving students because they don't have to wait for other students to finish assignments.